*1/2 (out of four)
On a day spent offering what he perceives as a crash-course in manhood, Vincent (Chicago-native Common) expects his 11-year-old nephew, Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.), to pick up a lot in one lesson. How to crack a crab, OK. But driving? Firing a gun? Can we at least schedule a follow-up, Uncle Vince?
Actually, better to get it over with because the derivative, murky “Luv”—and its numerous, unnecessary time-stamps, as if we care if it's 7:24 a.m. or 7:25 a.m.—feels long enough at 87 minutes. Vincent mysteriously gets out of jail after serving just eight years of a 20-year sentence. Now he wants to open his own Baltimore crab restaurant (how original!) but will have to track down the necessary cash through less-than-legit means. That doesn't generate much action or urgency, though, just a watered-down story sure to be compared unfavorably to “The Wire.”
Speaking of “The Wire,” Michael K. Williams is just one familiar face underused in a small role in “Luv.” The same goes for Danny Glover, Dennis Haysbert and Meagan Good. Common (“Just Wright,” TV’s “Hell on Wheels”), meanwhile, fumbles his biggest starring role to date.
Director/co-writer Sheldon Candis clouds the situation enough to make you want to figure out what's going on but neither fully clarifies the narrative nor rewards the attention. Good intentions or not, Vincent's guidance mostly just puts his nephew in harm's way, and his journey of redemption only comes off as a guy confronting his past in poorly planned fashion.
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